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When It's All Out Of Control
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
- YOU EITHER BEND OR BREAK
In a storm its better to be a Willow tree than an
Oak. Why? Even though the oak is stronger, during strong winds its the Willow which
can bend. The Oak, on the other hand, will break.
When at the breaking point, Gods leaders
mayfranticallyseek ways to keep them from the pain of "breaking" or
snapping into mental illness.
- CONFLICT INTENSIFIES THE HURT
- As conflict intensifies, Gods leaders begin to feel a sense of deep
betrayal, rebellion, loss and failure which, as the crisis intensifies over a protracted
time, will inevitably deepen.
- The result? These leaders look for compensatoryby
dysfunctionalcoping mechanisms to keep them from breaking. They flip the coin and
find that "heads they lose
tails they lose."
- ADDICTION AS A COPING MECHANISM
- The first coping mechanism ("heads") is addiction. An addiction
is simply an out-of-control dependence which negatively affects the daily function
of a person in some way. Addictions can include things such as work, television,
computers, love, sex, chemical dependencies, relationships, power, speed
or a host of
a whole lot of other things.
- ADDICTIONS TO
- Strangely enough, addictions can also include religious addictions such
as addictions to the addicts perception of "pure" doctrine,
"pastoral" authority, or "biblical" practice. Satan is so
cleverusing crises in such a manner to cause even the doctrinally pure, Scripturally
sound, conscientious pastor to go into excessiveand destructiveperversion of
his greatest strengths.
- Ironically, the greatest potential danger is to those pastors which are
most creative, conscientious, dedicated, hard-working and determined. Because of
their vigilant and competent leadership, they are accustomed to a lifestyle and leadership
style which keeps things humming with a regularity of predictability and control. In
crisisespecially prolonged, traumatic crisisthese pastors are especially prone
to experiencing the mentally, physically and spiritually horrifying trauma of mental
illness. In a frantic move to feel a sense of control, they resort--at great risk--to
various addictions and obsessive behaviors.
- In the fire and trauma of crisis our greatest strengths so easily become
our greatest weaknesses!
- LOSS OF CONTROL
- Even the most conscientious, faithful and energetic men of God may be
sucked into an overwhelming, uncontrollable undertow of addictive behaviors. Ironically,
the most destructive of those are abnormal, excessive distortions of their normal
activities and attitudes.
- As the pastor experiencing the stress find himself less able to withstand
the addiction, he may slowly and almost imperceptibly become so out-of-control that
even things which could formerly be controlledanxieties, guilt, relationships,
tempers, obsessionsbecome totally out of control. Mental illness has begun
to set in
deep depression and other clinical anxieties are, at this stage, already
present and eating away at every aspect of the pastors life. Without appropriate
intervention, self-destructive behaviors may emerge.
- Addiction is the "heads" side of the coin. Compulsion, the
"tails" side is just as destructive. Working in tandem, it is not hard to see
that nothing but the grace of God can sustain even the strongest pastor in this time of
- COMPULSION AS A COPING MECHANISM
- Compulsion is an out-of-control behavior which gives the
participant the illusion of being in control. In normal circumstances, these behaviors can
be healthy and essential to normal day to day living. In crisis, however, these are
- As individuals immerse themselves in addictive thoughts and behaviors,
they greatersometimes almost unstoppablesense of being out of control.
Activities such as walking, jogging, eating, computers and attitudes such as effective
planning and organization, investment, relationships, spending, become the basis for
- SIGNS OF COMPULSIVE BEHAVIORS
- Surprisingly, some of compulsive behaviors can be quite innocuous; others
are quite damaging. Whatever the obsession or group of obsessions, the key signal for
obsessive behavior that its behavior thats out of control, beyond whats
"normal" for that individual. Walkers may take excessively longer walks. Joggers
may increase their zeal for fitness; personal spending may turn into an irresponsible,
unbridled spending frenzy and financial disaster.
- Pastors with obsessions may experience marked weight changes as their
obsessions relative to food change. Desires and activities designed to materialize
fantasies of power, sex, and control may tragically become realized, resulting in clergy
misconduct of various sorts. Unfortunately, such immoral, unethical fantasies become
realized at great price to pastors, families, and congregations. Tragically, timely
intervention may have prevented many of these tragic falls.
- THE DESTRUCTIVE CYCLE
- As the crisis drags on and on and on, and as the "light at the end
of the abysmal tunnel darkens," competent organizational skills become subject to two
behavioral extremes: an obsessive perfectionism and need for total control or, its
opposite, chaos and apathy. Undoubtedly, many experience an unpredictable swings back and
forth to the two extremes.
- Unable to control the extremes of eitheror bothof these
extremes, the compulsive pastor is subject to almost certain increased levels irritability
and self-perpetuating paranoia. Ironically, heroic efforts to recover control independent
of intervention simply perpetuateand intensifythe destructive cycle of
addiction and compulsion
a cycle that can end in hopelessness, loneliness, and
- Crisis can transform the willow into an oak. When it does, the oak
.with almost certain tragic, painful consequences.
- SOME KEY INTERVENTION STRAGEGIES
- Recently I became aware of a pastor in the Michigan District-LCMS who
received a surprise e-mail message. It was from Rev. Michael Ruhl, the newly-appointed
Senior Congregational Counselor for the Michigan District-LCMS. He wrote this individual
just to ask how he was doing...professionally and personally.
- Certainly, this is a step in the right direction. How many of you have
every had church hierarchy contact you in such a waywithout prompting? How many
denominations have considered this intervention strategies? Might this help to avert some
of the "aloneness" pastors may experienceespecially in difficult times of
ministry? Might such attention give support to brothers who might otherwise be considering
resignations in difficult circumstances?
- IMPORTANCE OF THE BROTHER
- When pastors sense that their ministry, their gifts, their perseverance
means something to the Church, it is encouraging. It indicates to pastorsbefore,
during or after crisisthat their ministry is valuable. More important, it indicates
that there are brothers in ministry to help, care, and assist them as part of a ministry
- One of the most memorable times in my ministry was when, during a crisis
event several years ago, I phoned Michigan District Vice-President, Rev. Erwin Kostizen of
Clio, Michigan. I picked up the phone, nervously, and said, "Vice President Kostizen,
this is Pastor Tom Fischer of Midland
- Before I could finish my sentence he said, "Boy have you been dumped
on." He then offeredand gavesome of the greatest levels of support a
brother could give during a very difficult period of ministry over an extended
until resolution was realized.
- A competent, confidential brother in ministry can make all the difference
in the world!
- PERSONAL COPING STRATEGIES
- After the 5,000 were fed and Jesus refused to be the crowds
"bread-and-butter" King, many disciples left Jesus. In responding to Jesus
question, "Will you leave me too?", Simon Peters answer gave us the
greatest key for coping in crisis: He said,
- "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life"
(John 6:68 KJV).
- Peters first word, "Kurie" (i.e. "Lord") showed
how Peter was beginning to learn something important about dealing with trauma. Like
Peter, our first word, in trauma, ought to be to the "Lord." He has the words of
life; He promises to build His church in spite of Satans attacks. Jesus promises to
be with us
even when were fearful or falling apart. Go to Him, go to His Word,
go to His strength
- A LESSON FROM TIGER WOODS
- How we deal with crisespersonal, professional, or
ecclesiasticalis an indication of how we deal with success.
- Did you see Tiger Woods on TV on Sunday, August 17th? He was off the
fairway, in the rough, right in the middle of a clump of trees. There was seemingly no
good shot from his vantage point.
- What was interesting, however, was watching how he dealt with his adverse
predicament. As he approached the ballburied in the roughhe approached the
ball and swung with the same ease, focus, skill, confidence and concentration as when the
ball was only six inches from the hole. He could deal with adversity because he learned
how to practice and develop healthy skills and attitudes on the easy shots. Having learned
these lessons well, he applied them skillfully and effectively in adversity.
- Though such attitudes didnt guarantee a perfect shot every time,
they did give him a greater sense of confidence when failure was the only option.
- ALWAYS USE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER
- In worship this morning I had an object lesson with the children. As I
struck a match and lit it, I asked them, "How do you put out a match?"
"Blow it out!" they said. "Wrong!" I responded. "You use a fire
extinguisher." Using progressively bigger candlesand then a full garbage
containerI asked the same question
and the answer was always the sameuse
the fire extinguisher.
- Our personal connection with God is like a fire extinguisher. We
shouldnt just "use" Him for our "big fires." Instead, we need to
recognize that we need to call upon God in EVERY time of trouble
even the little ones
that are totally within our management capability.
- When we use our own power in the small things, we set ourselves up for
disaster. Why? Because, like Tiger Woods, if were not practicing healthy and
effective stress and conflict management skills on the fairway, were not going to
make it in the rough.
- Practice using Gods power to deal with burning matches
such practice will pay off when dealing with event the most raging church fires!!!
- LET GOD DO IT!
- The most important healthy coping strategy is to let God do it!
- When we try to do Gods job, we dont make progress; and we
become frustrated. When we let God do His job in our lives and in our churches, we make
progress. What we really need to learn is to do our part and let God do His part.
Resorting to addictions and compulsive behaviors simply delays the realization of the most
important lesson we can learn:
No matter how hard we work, how competently we
lead, or what successes we have experienced, We don't build God's church, God
There are NO exceptions!
- God wants to build His church through us. But, as long as we are trying
to do His job, God doesntand cantdo it without working around or
in spite of us.
- Our greatest calling is to believe in His working through us; His part is
to do the work. We can only be faithful and responsive instruments to do His calling. Only
He can create the outcomes which are truly pleasing to Him.
- Even when were out of control rememberHe REALLY IS in
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:31 PM